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Rural Payments Agency

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 3rd February 2011.

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Photo of John Baron John Baron Conservative, Basildon and Billericay 10:30 am, 3rd February 2011

What progress has been made in resolving the single payment scheme difficulties experienced by Mr Peter Philpot.

Photo of James Paice James Paice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I apologise very much for the unacceptably long delay in resolving the issues on Mr Philpot's single payment scheme claims. For the House's information, I should declare that I know Mr Philpot personally. This is one example of the dire legacy at the Rural Payments Agency. I understand that Mr Philpot is due top-up payments for the 2007 and 2008 scheme years, and these will be made by the end of this month. Resolving the underlying problems will take longer, but I am committed to seeing that permanent solutions are found.

Photo of John Baron John Baron Conservative, Basildon and Billericay

The Minister kindly acknowledges that the RPA has failed my constituent over a long period. Will he detail in writing what has held up the claims so far, and which entitlements are causing the problem, in time for a meeting on 15 February between the National Farmers Union and Mr Philpot?

Photo of James Paice James Paice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

To be honest, I am not sure that I can write to my hon. Friend detailing which particular transfers or entitlements are wrong. The problem is the computer system, which is completely inadequate for its purpose. It was commissioned, of course, by the previous Government, and it is not fit for purpose, especially in very complex cases such as Mr Philpot's, where a large number of transfers of entitlements have had to be brought into play.

Photo of Rehman Chishti Rehman Chishti Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham

What progress she has made on improving the performance of the Rural Payments Agency.

Photo of Rehman Chishti Rehman Chishti Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham

Has the Minister considered the merits of outsourcing the agency's payments process to improve performance and efficiency?

Photo of James Paice James Paice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The short answer is yes-which my hon. Friend might be happy to settle for. I should emphasise, however, that that was one of the recommendations in the report that we published last year. We are pursuing it, but we have to ensure that we get the existing stuff working so that we do not interrupt payments even more while we look at the whole process of outsourcing.